by Zeb Little, M.D.
Over the last year, under the leadership of Dr. Ijeoma Ijeaku and through the significant efforts of a number of very dedicated members, SCPS tackled several significant issues. We made great strides in creating a more coherent legislative framework for our advocacy efforts; created pathways to addressing the stigma and bias that hampers our work; and developed some creative solutions to our financial and work force needs. But, there is always more to be done. In this initial report to our membership, I’d like to highlight some of these recent activities and discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead for our organization. These areas can be broadly categorized under the headings of Advocacy, Committees, and Programs.
As a member-supported organization, SCPS seeks to advance the interests of its members and the patients they serve. One way we do this is through legislative advocacy. To this end, SCPS has sponsored and\or supported initiatives to expand access to quality care (AB 32, AB 858, SB 221), create alternatives to law enforcement as de facto responders to mental health crisis calls (AB 988), and address long-overdue changes to LPS law (SB 340, AB 1443, SB 1416).
Perhaps in the vein of “the big one that got away”, we have also seen AB 35, a bill developed to reform MICRA, move through the California legislature at lightening speed. The lack of opportunity for physicians and other interested parties to contribute to this bill serves as a warning of the perils of disorganized and unfocused legislative advocacy. While it is unclear whether or not a more robust and coherent legislative effort would have changed the outcome, it is certainly easy in hindsight to see missed opportunities for physician-aligned groups to take the lead on MICRA reform.
To this point, one issue that will need SCPS’ ongoing attention is the effort to tie homelessness and mental health treatment together through SB 1338, the euphemistically named Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court. The need to address these disparate but interrelated issues is obvious, but the solution certainly is not. It is imperative that SCPS members as well as their patients and families be involved in this process and continue to voice their perspective on potential harms, blindspots, and opportunities to improve these efforts going forward.
To provide our members with effective advocacy, we joined the California State Association of Psychiatrists (CSAP). This decision was made after a careful and extensive review of the options available to us. In brief, joining CSAP provides a path toward integrating the advocacy efforts of all California’s District Branches within a framework that is consistent with the bylaws of the APA and the Procedural Code of the APA Assembly. Furthermore, CSAP meets other demands of a membership-driven organization like SCPS by providing guarantees of fully transparent governance and by having an exclusive duty to serve the needs of the physician members of California’s APA District Branches, thereby avoiding the potential conflicts of interest inherent in receiving funding from non-physician groups. Additionally, CSAP provides SCPS a means to meet its fiduciary responsibility to our members by providing a determinative role in the use of our member’s advocacy funds. In addition to our work with CSAP, we intend to engage other groups and organizations in the exchange of ideas as well as the development of collaborations and joint advocacy projects that will benefit our members, our patients, and our profession.
Closely aligned with SCPS advocacy efforts is the work of our diverse and energetic Committees. While regular readers of this newsletter may already be aware of the activities of these groups, there are a few notable additions and developments to highlight.
In the last year, we have launched two important additions to our committee roster: the Diversity and Culture Committee and the Access To Care Committee. The Diversity and Culture Committee will assist SCPS in developing a more representative organization by bringing our attention to the needs and experiences of under-represented and marginalized groups within our community. The Access To Care Committee was started out of a need to bring specialized and focused attention to the difficulties and unique needs of disenfranchised groups that would benefit from mental health care. My hope is both committees through active discourse with our Government Affairs Committee and other stakeholders will become a rich source of legislative initiatives and programs that will help SCPS be a more representative and effective partner to these communities.
We are also working to revitalize the Managed Care Committee, the Private Practice Committee, and the Academic Liaison Committee. One area of focus will be developing better engagement with these groups to encourage membership in SCPS and foster collaborative projects.
Finally, we are sad to say goodbye to the LGBTQI Committee Chair Dr. Madeleine Lipshie-Williams. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their efforts championing the needs and experiences of our gender diverse community. We are especially grateful for their sponsorship of two important SCPS Programs: Transgender Issues and Thinking of Gender Without Pathology.
SCPS is dedicated to professional development and creating value for its members by sponsoring educational programs and curating resources relevant to our members. One of our long running programs is the highly regarded Advances in Psychiatry Series. We also sponsor the Managed Care Update, SCPS Career Fair, and NAMI Walk each year. Additionally, the Disaster Mental Health Relief Committee has begun hosting multiple Red Cross training forums and Psychological First Aid meetings each year. We will expand on these offerings by promoting a series of Town Hall meetings between our members and the members of allied organizations to foster the exchange of ideas, promote familiarity with their needs and our resources, and improve awareness and opportunities to address structural problems affecting these communities.
Given the effects of the pandemic on social gatherings and the increasing costs of sponsoring programs, the way SCPS carries out its mission of supporting our members’ professional development through educational programs deserves attention as does the role of our organization in providing a resource to our members for CME credits. We will be working on ways to improve our meetings to allow socially responsible in-person attendance while the pandemic continues, and further develop our catalogue of online videos available for CME credit on our website. The cost of delivering CME accredited programs and how to best return value to our members through the choice of programming will be another area for careful consideration.
In closing, I would like to extend an exuberant Thank You to all SCPS members for their ongoing support of the organization. Without you, SCPS wouldn’t exist. We welcome your ideas, observations, and participation. I’d also like to thank Dr. Ijeaku, the SCPS Executive Committee, and all the Committee Chairs for their exceptional work, diligent effort, and for being exemplary role models within our organization and our profession. I look forward to working with you to help SCPS become a more effective, inclusive, and vibrant organization.